Don't put away the hose yet!

Don't put away your hose yet!  We're having a meaningful rainfall deficit over the last two months, and plants that are going dormant need to do so in soil that has adequate moisture.  

In September we had just over 2" of rainfall - the normal is just over 4".

In October we had 1.6" of rainfall - the normal is 4.5"

In other words, plants are "expecting" an inch of rain per week or thereabouts at this time of year.  But they're falling behind.  Extremely dry weather this fall is especially problematic for evergreens at a time when water is so critical for their health prior to winter.  During the winter, exposed needles and leaves of evergreens are at the mercy of nature as cold winds pull moisture from the leaves.  Once the ground freezes, the plant cannot bring any more water in through is roots. If water is lacking within the plant due to an abnormally dry fall season, needles and leaves may die as water is lost during harsh, winter conditions.

So keep the outdoor water on and a hose at the ready, even if your irrigation system has already been winterized.  You certainly don't need to water every day, but once or a couple of times per week to make up for the inch of rain per week that the trees are not getting.  Especially if they are newly-planted, with a limited root zone going into winter. 

Deer resistant evergreens

I've designed and installed plantings all over Westchester County: the shores of the Long Island Sound, the hillsides along the Hudson, homes next to golf courses, lakes and wooded areas, and rural areas in the northern part of the county.  Many of these plantings were done without benefit of deer fencing in deer-infested areas.  There are a handful of trees and shrubs that are my go-to  plants in these situations. These are the ones you should try if you have deer wandering through your property unchecked and have had problems with deer browse damage on your existing plants.  The caveat is, of course, that if the deer get hungry enough they may eat plants that they've never eaten before.  So no guarantees!  But try them anyway!

Evergreens that are deer-resistant are the most important category, since they  are integral to the "bone structure" of your garden, and are important for privacy screening as well.  The most reliably deer-resistant evergreen is boxwood.  Deer really leave it alone!

Other broadleaf evergreens that I often use are skimmia (Skimmia japonica), andromeda (Pieris japonica) and sweetbox (Sarcococca hookeriana).  If I want to add some flower power and have the right conditions, I plant hybrid mountain laurel (Kalmia hybrids).  New Kalmia cultivars are entering the Nursery trade every year, with more spectacular bloom colors and compact, neater silhouettes.

Another excellent choice is American holly (Ilex opaca).  It takes shade, and is actually found in the forest, but it doesn't mind some sun either.  It is a tree, though, so give it enough space.

The needle evergreens (conifers) that I turn to are Norway spruce (Picea abies), Oriental spruce cultivars (Picea orientalis), Colorado Blue spruce and its cultivars (Picea pungens),  limber pine (Pinus flexilis) and concolor fir (Abies concolor 'Candicans').